(Not Photoshopped, I swear!)
Twelve weeks ago, I couldn't button up half of the jeans I own without major muffin top spillage over the waistband. Twelve weeks ago, I committed myself to losing as much weight as I could without doing anything drastic so that I wouldn't have to throw out half of my wardrobe. Of course I had the possibility of winning a little cash to keep me motivated, and even though I didn't win the Biggest Loser competition I entered, I came in second having lost 19.2 pounds, 15.3% of my original weigh-in weight. I wasn't the Biggest Loser, but in my book, I definitely came out a winner.
I've received several emails and messages from readers and friends asking me what I'd done to take the weight off, so I thought I'd write this post to share what I felt were the things I did that helped the most.
1) I ate a high-protein, low-fat breakfast every day. No, your mother wasn't talking out of her ass when she nagged that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skip breakfast and you're likely to overeat at lunch or reach for "quick-fix" snacks like the MSG-laden Calbee Shrimp Chips for an energy boost. And speaking of energy, eating a high-protein, low-fat breakfast will keep you energized and full for a longer amount of time. My breakfast of choice is Trader Joe's Nonfat Greek Yogurt with a little honey and fresh fruit. A cup of that stuff has zero fat, only 120 calories and 6 grams of sugar, and get this--22 grams of protein! Compare that with a serving of Yoplait yogurt which is 170 calories but has 27 grams of sugar and only 5 grams of protein. Even when adding in the honey and fresh fruit, I still come out ahead of the flavored stuff. It's really a win-win situation.
2) I watched my caloric intake. For my weight, height and activity level, this website suggested I eat about 1450 calories a day for "normal" weight loss so I budgeted my meals for a given week to come out to a daily average of that number. As I've mentioned before, I think this is where being a food enthusiast really helped because it allowed me to get creative and experimental with different healthy foods and have fun doing it. Bibim-quinoa? C'mon, who else but a foodie would have thought of that?
3) I cheated. I allowed myself one cheat day a week where I'd let myself eat what I wanted to eat. Which meant fried, chili-oily goodness at Shufeng Garden, a bacon cheeseburger and fries, or a nice, hot, salty bowl of pho. This way, I had something to look forward to and work toward every week and it kept me on track enough to keep me from eating a tub of butter in one sitting. I've also read that varying your calorie intake from day to day helps to boost your metabolism by keeping your body guessing. So go ahead, cheat a little!
4) I exercised five days a week. And guess what else? I did not set foot in a gym once. The crowded, wait-for-a-machine, meatmarket atmosphere of the gym totally turns me off so I worked out in front of the TV doing a different workout video each day or kickboxing/strength moves while watching Bourdain devour a pig on No Reservations. I became a big fan of the Jillian Michaels/Biggest Loser workout library because those people sure know how to push your body to the limit, but there are certainly days that I don't feel like being yelled at by a drill sergeant so on those days, I do an easier workout. The important thing is to keep moving and vary your workouts to avoid plateaus; some of my favorite workouts are cheesy aerobics videos from the 90's where the people are literally sporting mullets, leotards and scrunchies. Remember Tae-Bo where you could almost see Billy Blanks' package under that electric blue unitard? Umm yeah, I work out to that video sometimes. Laugh all you want. It works.
5) I drank plenty of water. You know how you get that feeling of overall puffiness where you feel like your insides are literally pushing your waistline out? It's called water weight, yo. The more water you drink, the less likely your body is going to retain it. I had to pee alot, but I figured all the trips to the bathroom helped to burn extra calories.
6) I had a support group. If people around you have the same mindset as you, you're more likely to stay on track. For me and my coworkers, it totally helped to talk about how we were doing, what we were eating, a new workout we tried, or that we'd give anything to be able to devour a cupcake. No one in your office or social circles want to start a Biggest Loser contest or wants to lose weight? Join an online support group like the one on peertrainer or sparkpeople. Or blog/tweet/post on Facebook about your progress. Oh c'mon, you know that you now have more cyber-friends than you do friends you met outside the web anyways. Speaking of which, I'd like to give a big "Thank You" to all my readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends who sent their support and kind words over the last three months.
That's it. No gimmick diets. No fancy workout program. No heroin or methamphetamines. No TrimSpa, baby. I simply ate less (and healthier) and exercised more. I'm hoping that it's a simple enough program that I'll be able to keep it up. If not, I'll have to post pics of my muffin tops again on this blog. That should be motivation enough.